Call him ‘boss’ for next 3 months

Photo courtesy NJ Hometown/ Commissioner Mauro Tucci, shown here announcing his candidacy for reelection as township commissioner, has been picked as interim mayor of Nutley.


By Ron Leir 


The Nutley governing body has chosen Commissioner Mauro Tucci as interim mayor to serve until the May municipal election when a permanent chief executive will be picked from among the winners of the election.

Tucci, who will continue his duties as head of the Department of Parks & Public Property while he occupies the mayor’s seat, was the beneficiary of a 3-1 vote of the governing body.

Public Works Commissioner Dr. Joseph Scarpelli, Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco and Tucci voted for the appointment while Revenue & Finance Commissioner Tom Evans opposed it and Mayor Joanne Cocchiola abstained.

Township Attorney Kevin Harkins said that Tucci will take over as mayor Jan. 31, the same day that Cocchiola is stepping down to become the municipal court judge. Tucci will receive no additional salary, Harkins said.

Evans said that under the Municipal Vacancy Law of 1979, “it is optional” to appoint a commissioner as mayor but questioned the need for the governing body to rush to fill the mayor’s seat now.

“In about 90 days, the people of Nutley will decide who they want to be their commissioners and from that process we will know who our next mayor will be,” Evans said. “I am confident that a vacancy in the mayor’s office would not interfere with this government’s ability to handle any matter that could arise in the next 90 days.”

In a phone interview, Scarpelli, who introduced the appointment resolution, said he proposed Tucci because, “when we choose a mayor, we should look to the advice of the people and we should give the position to the highest vote-getter. In the last (municipal) election, that person was Commissioner Tucci.”

There is historical precedent for the Township Commission to vote for one of its own as interim mayor, Scarpelli said, as evidenced by “the last time we had a mayoral vacancy in 1935, in a similar situation to this one, when the mayor was in his last year and the vacancy occurred maybe five, six months before the scheduled election.”

Also, Scarpelli said, “there is a need to appoint a mayor from a good government aspect” – someone who will take a leadership role on behalf of the community – as, for example, in the wake of last October’s storm that caused “downed wires, fallen trees” and the mayor declared an emergency situation.


Photo courtesy NJ Hometown/ New Jersey Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, who now lives in Nutley, endorsed Mauro Tucci for re-election to the Township Commission.

“We need to appoint a mayor,” Scarpelli said. “The people deserve it and the law provides for us to do it.”

Tucci, who is completing his third 4-year term on the commission, said in a phone interview that he felt it was a “tremendous honor” to be placed in the mayoralty, even for a temporary term. He said Nutley has been fortunate to have had a tradition of excellent municipal leaders “and I’m very pleased to even be mentioned with that group.”

Tucci pledged to “work hard for our people. We’re going to do our darndest to control the tax rate. We need to start work on our 2012 budget and, with our state aid having been cut back this year, we’ll be lobbying our state legislators to see if we can get the formula corrected.”

Tucci said that he and his fellow commissioners would be monitoring pending development projects on Kingsland Ave., River Road and E. Centre St. to ensure that the integrity of the Nutley’s small town character isn’t adversely impacted.

Cocchiola said she abstained because she didn’t want to put herself in a possible conflict of interest position.

Cocchiola said the Walsh Act, under which Nutley was formed, does allow for the revenue and finance commissioner to be appointed mayor in the event of a vacancy. But, she added, “In this form of government, three votes means a majority, whatever change you want to make.”

In any event, Cocchiola added, “I wish Commissioner Tucci the best of luck. He’s certainly qualified for the position. I don’t have any doubt the township is in good hands.”

Aside from Cocchiola, all four incumbents are seeking re-election to the commission in May. Five other residents have picked up petitions to run. They are: Board of Education President Ken Reilly, Board of Education member Steve Rogers, former Assemblyman Fred Scalera, retired Fire Capt. Jon Cafone and Sam Fleitell, a local jewelry store owner.

In other business, the commissioners voted to introduce ordinances calling for the creation of an Historic Preservation Committee and providing for the designation and regulation of historic landmarks; changes to the law regulating peddlers and solicitors; and a renewal of the rent control law for another year.

Cocchiola said the proposed Historic Preservation Committee – which has been recommended by the township’s master plan – would look to identify local buildings for landmark status, subject to Planning Board approval.

“But if a (property) owner opted not to be placed on any landmark list, it would not be a mandatory thing,” the mayor added.

The committee would have five members and two alternates, all to be appointed by the mayor with the consent of the governing body.

“The committee would probably start with the naming of those historical buildings we already have designated on state or federal registers,” Cocchiola said, “and then maybe do studies of other structures. … I look at it as an educational and consultative resource.”

The committee would be empowered to issue “certificates of appropriateness” for work performed on an historic landmark that would change the exterior physical appearance, for demolition work, for “relocation of a principal or accessory structure,” or for “any addition or new construction of a principal or accessory structure.”

Applicants are entitled to a public hearing held by the committee, subject to the payment of a $50 fee by the applicant. Appeals may be made to the Planning Board.

Under the ordinance, the township construction official would be required to create a “photographic or video recording” of every historic landmark.

“This ordinance is something I’d committed to doing in this mayoral term and we’ve got it in under the gun,” Cocchiola said.

The ordinance is slated for a public hearing by the Township Commission on Feb. 7.

The proposed amendments to the peddler ordinance, introduced by Commissioner Petracco, would raise the peddler/ solicitor permit application fee, from the current $25 to $150, but would extend the permit’s duration, from 60 days to one year. The amended ordinance would also require that vendors wishing to participate in the township’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Memorial Day Parade, Fourth of July Ceremony and any other municipal event to pay a $100 fee per event.

Additionally, the amended ordinance would allow the township commissioners to restrict mobile food operations to “certain occasions” that the commissioners designate. But the law’s new wording goes on to say that, “This section shall not be intended to exclude frozen dessert trucks from the Township of Nutley.”

Finally, the revised ordinance would eliminate the requirement that peddler/solicitor applicants submit two passport- sized photos with their applications.

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